Cover image of the review
Coalesce, 1993, oil on canvas, 173 x 305cm, photographer Effy Alexakis

Suzanne Archer: Moving Forwards, Looking Back: A Survey 1969–2016

7 Jan 2017
Nicholas Thompson Gallery 1 Jan - 1 Feb 2017

When the well-known painter Gareth Sansom opened Suzanne Archer’s show at the Nicholas Thompson Gallery in December, he made the rather large claim that two of the paintings—-Coalesce (1993) and Ant holes and Bandy-Bandy (1994)—-were the best he’d seen in Melbourne all year.

It’s a kind of old-school remark—all that talk of the ‘best’ and the reference to the specific ‘painting’ rather than the more general ‘art’—but we can see why he made it.

Sansom and Archer actually go a long way back together. They both featured—Sansom as the latest appointed member of Melbourne’s all-male ‘antipodeans,’ Archer as a newly arrived abstract artist from England—in Mervyn Horton’s Present Day Art in Australia in 1969. Horton, at the time the editor of Art & Australia, included both as predictions of a sort in his painting-heavy primer, published on the cusp of big changes in the Australian art world.

The year before, 1968, saw the opening of The Field at the National Gallery of Victoria, generally understood to mark the end of ‘modernism’ in Australian art, and with it both the pre-eminence of painting as a medium and the idea of there being some identifiable national art. The decade that followed is generally held to be the moment of the entry of social issues into art: feminism, community-based protest, the discovery of Aboriginal art.

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